PLAINS TWP. — The message was clear and simple — if you see litter, pick it up.
More importantly, don’t litter — ever.
Ted Wampole, executive director of Visit Luzerne County, held a breakfast meeting Tuesday at The Woodlands with local municipal, government and tourism officials to discuss Luzerne County’s growing anti-littering campaign.
The campaign, which Wampole said is already underway, is designed to work with local school districts, colleges and municipalities to encourage everyone to help keep the region beautiful.
“It’s about curb appeal,” Wampole said. “It’s really critical.”
Since partnering with the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau earlier this year, Wampole said Visit Luzerne County has been working to raise awareness to combat littering and is now reaching out to grow involvement to learn how everyone can do their part to reduce litter.
Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre City’s director of operations, said the city is working on its plan to implement an anti-littering program.
“We are working on developing an ordinance and a resolution to address littering,” Frati said. “We will also place signs throughout the city to warn people about the penalties they face if caught littering.”
Frati and Wampole agreed that enforcement is the key. Frati said the city has not yet decided what the fines and penalties will be. Wampole feels they should be severe enough to deter people from littering.
“This is not an epidemic,” Wampole said. “But it is a problem and we need to address it before it becomes a serious issue.”
Wampole talked about Act 62 — which was signed into law in June 2018, adding increased fines for roads designated for stronger litter enforcement, along with adding community service requirements to monetary fines for first-time offender penalties. The act also creates Litter Enforcement Corridors, a new tool to help Pennsylvania crack down on litter and dumping.
“Act 62 has to be enforced or these programs won’t work,” Wampole said. “We need stiff fines and penalties.”
Wampole said littering that is visible to travelers can have a negative economic impact. He said tourism is an important contributor to the region’s economy — nearly $1 billion per year.
“Perception matters,” Wampole said. “Visit Luzerne County recognizes the impact littering can have on both residents and visitors and hopes that, through these next steps to raise awareness and grow involvement, we can work together to keep Luzerne County a beautiful place to live and visit.”
Chris Barrett, president/CEO of Pocono Mountains Convention & Visitors Bureau, discussed the successful “Pick Up the Poconos” campaign.
Other programs discussed included litter enforcement corridors, PennDOT’s “Innovative Challenge” and the “Design a Sign” contest for Luzerne County schools. Palmira Miller and Janet Sweeney of Pennsylvania Environmental Council gave a presentation on “Keep NEPA Beautiful.”
“In the Poconos, tourism is our No. 1 industry,” Barrett said.Our programs have had an impact. Everybody can do something about litter — don’t walk past it, pick it up.”
Barrett said it takes two years for a discarded cigarette to biodegrade. He said plastics are more damaging.
Wampole said volunteers are needed, as well as private industry partners and the media.
Wampole said community awareness is critical to a successful anti-litter campaign. He said stop-littering signs and billboards will go up as the campaign moves forward.
“This is a community issue and the community can fix it,” Wampole said.